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Succumbing to Threats, Messi and Argentina Cancel Friendly Match Against Israel

After convicted terrorist Jibril Rajoub, head of the Palestinian Football Association, promises to burn the soccer superstar’s jerseys

Liel Leibovitz
June 06, 2018
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The boy in the grainy photograph above is Daniel Tregerman. He was 4 years old in August of 2014 when Hamas, operating from inside an UNRWA facility in Gaza, fired mortar rockets at his home in a kibbutz in southern Israel. His parents, Gila and Doron, were worried, and decided to leave their home and travel somewhere safer, further away from the range of the terrorist organization’s projectiles. Before they had the chance to get in their car and drive, however, an alarm sounded. The Tregermans rushed to get their two youngest children into the bomb shelter, but Daniel, the oldest, didn’t make it: He was struck by the rocket and died of his wounds shortly thereafter.

He was a soccer fan, and particularly loved Lionel Messi, the Argentinian star of Barcelona. In the photograph that many Israeli newspapers published after the boy’s death, he’s wearing Messi’s jersey, smiling. Yesterday, however, Messi and his teammates succumbed to the violent threats of Palestinian terrorists and canceled a friendly match in Israel scheduled for this weekend.

After Jibril Rajoub—the head of the Palestinian Football Association and a convicted terrorist who spent 15 years in prison for a grenade attack—called on fans to burn Messi jerseys and photographs unless Argentina’s team cancels the friendly match in Jerusalem, the team succumbed to the pressure and yesterday announced that it will not be traveling to Israel.

“Values, morals and sport have secured a victory today and a red card was raised at Israel through the cancellation of the game,” said Rajoub, whose values and morals include repeatedly praising Hamas for kidnapping and killing Israelis and claiming, in 2014, that “Hitler could’ve learned from the Israelis how to build death camps.”

Embodying the spirit of sportsmanship everywhere, Rajoub also stated, in 2012, that “there will never be any normalization in sports. Next time, we’ll fly members of our organized committee in helicopters so that they don’t have to see any Jews, don’t see any devils, don’t see any Zionist sons of dogs.”

These are the people with whom Messi and his teammates chose to side. No matter how they fare in the World Cup beginning later this month, they’ve already lost the only challenge that matters, that of basic moral decency.

Liel Leibovitz is Editor at Large for Tablet Magazine and a host of its weekly culture podcast Unorthodox and daily Talmud podcast Take One. He is the editor of Zionism: The Tablet Guide.